Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, September 4, 2023 – Embattled China bounced back to beat defending champions Japan with epic comeback 3-2 (23-25, 25-20, 19-25, 26-24, 16-14) in their last Top 8 clash to capture the top spot in Pool F in the 22nd Asian Senior Women’s Volleyball Championship at Chartchai Hall here on Monday.
Opposite hitter Zhou Yetong contributed 18 points from 15 attacks, 2 blocks and one ace for China, while outside hitters Wu Mengjie and Zhong Hui added another 17 and 15 points.
Outside hitter Yuki Nishikawa scored a match-high 31 points including 29 attacks from 70 attempts on the Japan’s loss.
Both Japan and China have yet lost a set to their respective opponents ahead of the Monday’s last Top 8 encounter in Pool F. China, fielding a strong lineup which captured the last month’s Chengdu Universiade, made a solid start in the first set, with opposite hitter Zhou Yetong attacking devastatingly at the net for the team’s 6-2 lead.
However, defending and consecutive two-time champions Japan roared back to level it at 10-10, using the excellent offensive mobility from Okumu Oba Fuyumi Hawi’s mighty mid-court attacks and Aki Momii’s well-placed serves. The Japanese established an 18-15 lead when hard-hitting and heavy-scoring outside hitter Howi, who scored a team-high 22 points in their previous match against Kazakhstan on Sunday, proved an unstoppable force to net back-to-back points for the team. Japan extended it to 24-21, but the Chinese did not give up and saved two sets points before Hawi hammered a sharp spike to help Japan finish off the hard-fought set 25-23.
The second set was still competitive as China tried to bring their fine form back on track, but Japan relied on their impenetrable defence, fast-paced game and excellent teamwork. The Chinese took the lead with a four-point clear at 16-12, cruised on to widen the gap to 22-20 and let loose netting points to clinch the thrilling set 25-20.
Japan took command in the third set to take an early 12-8 lead. Although China staged strong fightback to bag some points, Hawi’s brilliant mid-court spikes and Yuki Nishikawa’s attacks assisted Japan to maintain control. Leading commandingly 22-18, the Japanese allowed China only one more point from a huge spike from Zhou Yetong to wrap up the set 25-19, with skipper Haruyo Shimamura attacking devastatingly to hand the team last point in the set.
The fourth set was closely-contested. China led initially 5-2 before Japan bounced back mightily with destructive attacks from Yuki Nishikawa and Hawi to catch up with the pace-setters at 13-13. Both sides traded attacks which saw the score levelled for several times until 22-22 and 24-24. China picked things up to win two points in a row for the set win 26-24, forcing the tie-breaker.
Both sides came all out in the decider. Japan set an early pace 11-10, while the Chinese hit back to tie the score 11-11. Shortly after that, leads started to change hands. Japan led 14-12, needing only one more point to win the set and match, but China came back much stronger to score four points in a row to take the set 16-14 and match.
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